Creative Meeting Point for Offset and Digital Printers

Following a packed pre-Drupa event at its Radebeul facility in March, on its 3,500m² (37,700ft²) stand in hall 16 Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) showcased a raft of new digital and offset launches at Drupa under the banner "sprinting ahead". They included new, highly automated sheetfed offset presses for all formats, a litho press with integrated inkjet printing device, new web offset newspaper and packaging presses, and an inkjet web press, the KBA RotaJET 76. So 200 years after the company's two founders built the world's first mechanical printing press KBA is expanding into high-volume digital print.

Bolza-Schünemann: KBA will actively shape the future of print

At the KBA press conference on the first day of the show KBA president and CEO Claus Bolza-Schünemann noted that the 15th Drupa is taking place in an unsettled economic climate and that technological advances, online services, internet printers and digital print are accelerating change in the print media industry. He said: "The cards are being reshuffled in the market. The initial confrontation between online and print media, and between analogue and digital printing, is evolving into a constructive coexistence. We aim to continue actively shaping print's future through innovation. 'Digital joins offset' is a core message on the KBA stand. Our entry into digital print does not signal our exit from sheetfed or web offset, but is the only way we can offer customers impartial advice on the best press for their needs. The ongoing consolidation in the sector will enable us to exploit our specific strengths to boost our market standing still further."

Head of marketing Klaus Schmidt emphasised that the "sprinting ahead" slogan, the smorgasbord of new products exhibited and the undiminished size of the KBA stand compared to 2008 underscore the group's confidence that the prospects for print are bright even in today's multimedia environment.

RotaJET 76: high-volume inkjet made by KBA

Developed by offset experts in collaboration with a US print major, the RotaJET 76 is the only high-volume digital web press built in Germany (at KBA's main factory in Würzburg). It has a maximum web speed of 150 metres (500ft) per minute, a 781mm (30.7in) wide web and can output up to 3,000 four-colour A4 pages per minute (some 85 million per month) in an outstanding inkjet quality. According to Oliver Baar, the longstanding project manager for digital printing systems, it unites innovative precision engineering, high-powered hardware and software and cutting-edge piezo inkjet technology to create an industrial-scale production tool for short runs and personalised prints. "If KBA is on the box, then KBA is inside," added Bolza-Schünemann with a fleeting reference to OEM products sold under other names.

The RotaJET initially targets the book, brochure, commercial, direct mail and magazine sectors, with packaging and newspapers to follow. Transaction printing is of less interest because the medium-term prospects are uncertain and there are already plenty of vendors. In addition to the high print quality the press delivers Oliver Baar pointed out that its more robust and compact design compared to similar presses, its reliability, intelligent web lead and thus good registration, one-man operation and its ability to deliver saleable copies even during start-up and run-down can deliver perceptible bottom-line benefits. The two arrays of 56 printing heads that arch over the two large central impression cylinders can be moved aside for cleaning and maintenance purposes. The printheads are automatically aligned (or "stitched", since the configuration resembles back-stitching) and cleaned. The system has a native print resolution of 600dpi. The ability to vary droplet size is an additional quality bonus. Internal systems communications and the integration of third-party systems are JDF-enabled. Visitors to Drupa can see demonstrations of variable production based on the popular APPE (Adobe PDF Print Engine) workflow. With its powerful front-end kit the RotaJET can handle large volumes of data at maximum speed in full-colour production.

The new KBA digital press at Drupa pumped out gang-stitched magazines and promotional brochures via a SigmaLine inline finishing system from Müller Martini. SigmaLine systems have already been installed at numerous production plants worldwide. They are controlled via a smart data and process management system supplied by Connex, which ensures the smooth and consistent integration of presses and finishing equipment in a single workflow. The SigmaLine's modular design allows it to be customised for the production of both paperbacks and hardcover books plus other stitched products.

Sheetfed offset: a raft of winning features in all formats

For visitors seeking frontline sheetfed offset technology, process innovations, and the fastest press speeds and job changes in B2 to large format, KBA was the place to be. The biggest litho press at Drupa 2012 was a new plinth-mounted six-colour Rapida 145 with coater and automated pile logistics, the longest was a Rapida 106 with twelve printing, coating and drying units for four-colour perfect printing and coating, and the newest and most advanced B2 (29in) press was a five-colour Rapida 76 with dedicated plate-cylinder drives, no-sidelay infeed and an array of other features adopted from the Rapida 106.

Rapida 145: redefining the benchmark in large format

As the market leader in large format KBA lived up to its image by redefining the benchmarks for job-changing times, productivity and inline quality control with its new Rapida 145. With an optional speed-enhancement package the 1060 x 1450mm (41.7 x 57in) press has a maximum rated output of 17,000sph in straight and 15,000sph in perfecting mode with a new three-drum perfecting unit. It incorporates many of the unique features offered with the Rapida 106 makeready world champion. The Rapida 145 at Drupa also featured DriveTronic SIS sidelay-free infeed and DriveTronic SPC dedicated drives that support simultaneous plate changes in all the printing units in around 60 seconds.

The Rapida 145's output is more than 50% higher than that of previous models and rival presses, thanks to a number of simultaneous makeready sequences. For example, its CleanTronic Synchro two-bar system can wash the inking rollers, blankets and impression cylinders simultaneously during plate changing. CleanTronic ReInk is a new, ultra-fast washing system for the inking units. The coating formes in the new coater can be changed simultaneously via DriveTronic SFC, while the relatively lightweight AniSleeve sleeves on the anilox rollers can be changed fast by a single operator. The superior production speed of 17,000sph was made possible by a new HighFlow doctoring chamber for the coater and by a new AirTronic delivery that can be preset from the console and has overhead venturi sheet guides and dynamic sheet braking. The new ErgoTronic console is even easier to use, has integrated QualiTronic colour measurement and control software for quality monitoring and a wall screen with image-in-image function. KBA's new large-format Rapida presses also incorporate QualiTronic ICR (inline register control) and QualiTronic PDF for comparing the printed image inline with the original PDF file. The energy-saving VariDryBLUE dryers previously offered only with large-format presses will soon be available in medium format as well.

Rapida 106: makeready world champion now runs at 20,000sph

Having claimed the world speed record in makeready at Drupa 2008, the extensively automated Rapida 106 has upped its game and in conjunction with a speed-enhancement package can now pump out 20,000 sheets per hour straight and 18,000 when perfecting. Its many new features include DriveTronic SFC simultaneous coating-forme change, AniloxLoader automatic screen roller change, an optimised AirTronic delivery for high press speeds and an all-new ErgoTronic console with user-oriented wall screen and a plethora of new modules for online and inline quality measurement and control. The unique new QualiTronic PSO-Match module developed in alliance with System Brunner automates production monitoring to ISO12647-2 standards (see separate press release). As well as perfect printing and coating four-colour products, the twelve-unit version with DriveTronic SPC dedicated plate-cylinder drives on the KBA stand defended its record-breaking reputation with flying job changes in four-colour straight production.

Bridgehead to digital: Rapida 105 with inkjet device

KBA also unveiled a new-generation B1 (41in) press, the Rapida 105, whose overhead delivery instantly revealed its similarity to the high-end Rapida 106 and KBA's adoption of the platform concept common in the automotive industry. The Rapida 105 is offered with a much broader range of automation options than was its predecessor, and is now also available as a perfecting version for four-backing-four. The model exhibited at Drupa had a speed-enhancement package that raised the maximum production speed to 17,000sph, compared to 16,000sph for the standard version.

But the big attraction on the Rapida 105 at Drupa was its inkjet inking unit with two integrated Atlantic Zeiser Delta 105iUV systems and a UV LED dryer for personalised imprinting and coding. An innovative vacuum cylinder (AirTronic Drum) with countersunk grippers ensured that the sheets were positioned correctly under the inkjet heads. This option, which dispenses with the need for mechanical sheet guides and print-free corridors, is unique to the Rapida 105 and 106. By preventing the rear edge from lifting it allows the inkjet system to be installed at a distance of just 1mm (0.04in) from the sheet.

Other potential applications range from quality inspection with KBA-Metronic's alphaJET-tempo printer for tagging flawed sheets, brand protection using coding devices (barcodes, QR codes, numerical IDs or combinations thereof), security and publication printing, labels, packaging, lottery tickets and ads. Up to eight of Atlantic Zeiser's high-speed greyscale inkjet printing heads can fit in a Rapida 105 or 106 printing unit. They apply equally sharp images on coated, laminated, glossy and non-absorbent substrates. A miniature controller allows them to be used in marking, inspection and quality assurance processes. A high-speed camera for verifying the variable data is another quality control feature. KBA QualiTronic MarkPlus, which flags faulty blanks as part of an inline sheet inspection system, is an attractive option for packaging printers. The flawed blanks can be ejected automatically during downstream processing, eg in the folder gluer.

KBA's AirTronic Drum allows other finishing processes to be integrated in a press line. One current example is an inert dryer in a 19-unit Rapida 106 recently ordered by Amcor Tobacco Packaging in Rickenbach, Switzerland. At Drupa KBA demonstrated a possible link between the Rapida 105 and RotaJET when SigmaLine finishing kit from Müller Martini was used to wrap sequentially numbered covers printed on the Rapida 105 around inner sections printed on the RotaJET 76, delivering 52-page stitched brochures.

Rapida 76: high-powered Rapida 106 technology in B2

The 15,000sph, 530 x 750mm (20.86 x 30in) Rapida 75 unveiled at Ipex 2010 and since upgraded was joined at Drupa by the Rapida 76 - a new, high-end stablemate capable of straight printing at 18,000sph and perfecting at 15,000sph. The five-colour coater version exhibited boasted many of the automation options that were originally developed for the medium-format Rapida 106 and are unique in B2. These include DriveTronic SIS sidelay-free infeed, automatic plate changing, DriveTronic SPC dedicated plate-cylinder drives, simultaneous washing with CleanTronic Synchro and a choice of either ErgoTronic online colour measurement and control at the new console or QualiTronic inline colour measurement and control. The Rapida 76 is the product of a cutting-edge technology transfer from KBA's larger presses, and is sure to be of interest to productivity-focused commercial and packaging printers.

The ultimate in green printing

Even the smallest KBA litho press, the Genius 52 UV manufactured by KBA-MePrint, was given a pre-Drupa upgrade and is now offered with optional envelope feeder and split-colour printing capability. Along with a second Genius and a five-colour Rapida 106 with coater on the adjacent Toray stand it demonstrated high-quality eco-friendly waterless UV printing on film and other challenging substrates.

Varius 80: new web offset press for flexible packaging

KBA-MePrint also showed the Varius 80, a modular, variable-format web offset press targeting the high-growth flexible packaging market. The Varius 80 is a waterless press with keyless inking units and a UV dryer - a combination that delivers an excellent print quality on flexible, non-absorbent substrates with a minimum of start-up waste. The offset plates used in the press are much cheaper than the sleeves required for a flexo press.

The Varius 80 runs up to saleable colour in just 100 metres (328ft) of web - a waste saving of around 80 per cent compared to other presses. This can pay dividends where run lengths are diminishing and job changes becoming ever more frequent. And a lot of print buyers will appreciate the high offset quality, not to mention the environmental benefits, because as well as being waterless the Varius 80 uses neither solvents nor powder. Engineered for a maximum web width of 800mm (31.5in) and a production speed of 400 metres (1,312ft) per minute, the press can handle substrates from 30 to 800µm (1.2 - 31.5mil) thick. The printing length is adjustable between 21 and 34 inches. The format length can be adjusted in a matter of minutes by automatically changing the plate and blanket cylinders. Job changes take around six minutes.

Innovations in web offset: C16 and Commander CL

KBA also unveiled a raft of new products addressing current and emerging trends in the commercial and newspaper printing sectors. One exhibit was a printing unit of its new compact Commander CL newspaper press, which is offered with a choice of automation modules. The press incorporates both automatic and semi-automatic plate changing and is linked to a new-generation ErgoTronic console. It stood alongside a C16 16-page commercial printing unit which completed job changes in less than 60 seconds, making it the perfect tool for printing short to medium runs. Unique features such as automated roller locks reduce maintenance input. The same applies to the C16's new quarterfold module for press speeds of up to 65,000iph and a console with new functions for time-and waste-saving press start-up and run-down, both of which were also exhibited.

KBA-Metronic: post-press marking with the BetaJET

KBA-Metronic, a specialist manufacturer of digital and analogue marking and coding systems, unveiled yet another interesting product for the packaging sector: the freely programmable betaJET thermal inkjet printer, which is embedded in the udaFORMAXX feeder system for handling folding cartons, blanks etc. It can be used for a variety of applications, eg as an addressing device, as an anti-counterfeiting module in the pharmaceuticals industry, for brand protection or for just-in-time manufacturing in the textiles and cosmetics branches.

ClimatePartner, Technology Lounge, JDF, MIS and more

KBA teamed up with ClimatePartner to demonstrate new options for climate-neutral printing and the potential of climate-neutral press manufacture - of which all the Rapida presses on the stand were examples. In the dedicated Technology Lounge KBA showcased the latest advances in UV LED and HR (high-resolution) UV curing systems, energy management and heat recovery in printing plants. As at previous trade fairs the CTP pre-press equipment - a Magnus 800 MCU platesetter - was provided by Kodak. The JDF/JMF workflow on the stand ran via LogoTronic Professional. KBA ProductivityPlus demonstrated process automation with MIS integration.

More from Fluid & Gas Flow Equipment

All Topics